In the chemical industry, BASF has the broadest product portfolio of materials that can be developed for 3D printing. Among them are an extensive range of engineering thermoplastics, polyurethanes, acrylate systems (e.g., photo-polymers), photoinitiators, functional additives, stabilizers, pigments as well as metal systems. This range of products serves as the basis for ready-for-use formulations for 3D printing.
“BASF brings tremendous expertise in materials for mass production to the 3D printing industry,” explains Tim Weber, Global Head, 3D Materials & Advanced Applications, HP. “By partnering with companies that have a long history in developing new materials with customers in the manufacturing industry, we want to bring 3D printing from small batch series to industrial large-scale production”.
BASF has broad experience in the development of plastics. Its portfolio includes high-performance engineering plastics such as Ultramid based on polyamide, Ultradur based on polybutylene terephthalate, Ultrason based on polysulfones and Ultraform based on polyoxymethylene. Another important product group is polyurethane solutions, which are used for improved insulation of buildings and the lightweight design of cars. Producers of shoes, household goods as well as sports equipment use the unique advantages of polyurethanes. This product group is composed of thermoplastic elastomers (e.g., Elastollan (TPU)) and microcellular elastomers. These existing businesses and strong capabilities are the backbone for the development of materials specific for industrial 3D printing applications.
“In collaboration with HP, we combine our understanding of customer needs and applications along with expertise in materials,” said Dietmar Geiser, responsible for BASF’s 3D printing strategy at BASF New Business. “The HP Open Platform is driving the advancement of materials for large-scale industrial use of 3D printing in production, and BASF will play an integral role in materials development”.
HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology is similar to 2D printing, in that a print-head applies agents in the envisioned shape on a polymer powder. The agents and powder are then exposed to energy to enable fusing. Due to the specific thermal conductivity of the agents, the polymer powder melts only in areas where the print head has applied the fusing agent and does not melt where the detailing agent has been applied. This process differs from the widely used laser sintering, in which the powder is applied and then melted bit by bit with a moving laser. Compared to other 3D printing technologies, HP’s Multi Jet Fusion technology is set to accelerate large-scale production by a factor of up to ten while halving the costs.
Overall, BASF develops various materials and ready-for-use formulations for all established 3D printing technologies for fabrication of plastics, ceramics or metals parts. A proof point of BASF’s material development capabilities is the recently launched Ultrasint PA6 X028, a polyamide-6 powder for sintering which provide superior mechanical stability and higher heat resistance compared to component parts fabricated with other polyamides currently used in the 3D industry. “We are working to develop durable materials that can be used for goods such as automobiles, electronics, sports articles or materials for the machining industry,” Geiser said.
To coordinate its 3D printing market development activities and innovation strategy, BASF has established a new dedicated business unit in BASF New Business GmbH (BNB) and created an Application Technology Center for 3D printing in Heidelberg, Germany. This center is dedicated to developing customized material solutions and downstream applications for customers.